Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) ~ Osmorhiza Plant Care Guide
Cicely // or Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is a plant belonging to the family Apiaceae, native to Central Europe; it is the sole species in the genus Myrrhis. It is a tall herbaceous perennial plant, depending on circumstances growing to 2 m [6 ft 6 in] tall. The leaves are finely divided, feathery, up to 50 cm long. The flowers are white, about 2–4 mm across, produced in large umbels. The seeds are slender, 15–25 mm long and 3–4 mm broad.
Cultivation and uses
Its leaves are sometimes used as a herb, either raw or cooked, with a rather strong taste reminiscent of anise; it is used mainly in Germany and Scandinavia. Like its relatives anise, fennel, and caraway, it can also be used to flavour akvavit. Its essential oils are dominated by anethole. The roots and seeds also are edible. Additionally, it has a history of use as a medicinal herb.
Sweet cicely is a very hardy perennial herb that is not widely known or grown. It loves cool weather and grows best in the cool climate of the far north. It has a slight anise flavor that pairs well with cooked fruits. Although it can reseed itself prolifically in the garden, the seeds only remain viable for a short time. If you’re growing it from seed, make sure the seeds are fresh.
Pick a spot in partial shade. Sweet cicely is one of the few herbs that like rich, moist, fertile soil.
Improve the soil. Add at least 2 inches of compost and 2 inches of peat moss to the surface of the soil in the chosen site. Incorporate these by turning over the soil with a spade. Rake the area smooth.
Plant seeds of sweet cicely in mid to late fall. The seeds of this herb need freezing and thawing cycles in order to germinate. Plant seeds ½ inch deep and 4 inches apart. Do not water or mulch the soil. The seeds will germinate the following spring.
Thin the seedlings the following spring when they are 2 inches high so they stand 12 to 18 inches apart.
Mulch the planting bed with a 3-inch layer of hay, straw or shredded leaves.
Provide sweet cicely with the equivalent of 1 inch of rainfall per week.
Top dress the soil around your sweet cicely every spring with compost. Pull back the mulch and spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost around the plants. Replace the mulch.
Dig up and divide the roots of sweet cicely every 4 to 5 years. Set the plant on a hard surface and sever the roots with a spade. Replant the divisions, spacing 12 to 18 inches apart.
Osmorhiza is a genus of perennial herbs, known generally as Sweet Cicely or Sweetroot. Most species are native to North America, but some grow in South America and Asia. Some species are used for medicinal purposes, but have dangerous lookalikes. The seeds of this plant have barbs on the end allowing them to stick to clothing, fur, or feathers.
- O. aristata
- O. berteroi (Tapering Sweetroot, Mountain Sweet Cicely, Mountain Sweetroot)
- O. brachypoda (California Sweet Cicely)
- O. claytonii (Clayton’s Sweetroot, Sweet Cicely)
- O. depauperata (Bluntseed Sweetroot)
- O. glabrata
- O. longistylis (American Sweet Cicely, Sweet Cicely, White Cicely, Longstyle Sweetroot, Aniseroot, Licorice Root, or Wild Anise)
- O. mexicana (Mexican Sweet Cicely)
- O. occidentalis (Western Sweetroot)
- O. purpurea (Purple Sweetroot)